1. What's wrong with the current AFTAMA fly line and fly rod system? Why do we need the Common Cents System (CCS)?
Maybe one does and maybe one doesn’t need the CCS. Nevertheless, regardless of one desires, one is judged by one’s vocabulary.
The previous “Systems,” if one can truly call them systems, were developed many years ago for the hoi polloi and while they are still useful for their purposes, today, they are not adequate for truly meaningful discussions of modern fly rods. You might call it elitism, but the CCS (in its complete form) was not developed for the common fly angler. It assumes a greater level of expertise. Nevertheless, fly fishing and all anglers can profit from the use of any part of it.
Fly rods and lines have undergone considerable changes over the last quarter century and a new vocabulary is necessary for the experts to be able to accurately characterize and intelligently discuss their physical properties—or for “new product reviewers” to educate their readers. The CCS, with its explanations and definitions, serves as the dictionary for this new language.
Current fly fishing catalogs list information about the rods they offer for sale. This includes data on “Weight”, Length, Weight (avdp.), and Number of Pieces. They also speak in general terms of taper, action, speed and power. Along this line, the reader is directed to read the section “Fly Rod ‘Expertise’ by the Numbers”.
Now, the CCS adds and defines the terms ERN, AA, WL, CCF, TP, and RP. With them, a much better description of any rod is possible, and, by using the numerical values, one can easily compare and/or highlight the differences between any two rods, regardless of their sources.
Finally, I would like to throw down the gauntlet to any and all purveyors of fly rods by offering this suggestion to their prospective customers. If you truly wish to make an independent assessment of the technical competence of anyone who would take your money and sell you a
fly rod, ask him to describe and compare the two most likely possibilities you are considering purchasing in terms of the CCS. If he doesn’t know what the CCS is, caveat emptor.
2. How did you determine that a deflection distance equaling 1/3rd the rod's length was the correct amount for a fully loaded rod?
In hindsight, the use of the term “fully loaded rod” was unfortunate. My intent was merely to define a rod which had been deflected to the degree specified by my test procedure.
My reasoning for choosing the value of one third of the rod’s length was based on my understanding that it was common practice for rod makers to confirm their quality control by attaching a fixed weight to the tip of the rod and determining the shape the rod assumed. They then drew outlines on the background of their testing boards which defined the allowable limits for each rod. They used a different weight for each product and that weight was chosen on the basis of the weight necessary to deflect the tip sufficiently to produce a nice curve. This curve appeared to me to be approximated by the curve of a rod for which its tip had been deflected a distance equal to one third of the rod’s length. Under these conditions, all rods look very similar, except at the very tip.
By deflecting the rod tip a distance of one third of its length, I was able to essentially factor out differences due to length. This approach, I believed was more universal in application. Also, the
slight angular differences shown at the tip made it possible to differentiate and quantitate rod action on the basis of what I called the Action Angle (AA).
3. I thought that fly rods would cast a range of several fly line weights. Is this not correct?
Yes, that is correct for modern graphite rods. You can use any line on any rod and easily cast for some undefined distance. However, the problem lies in defining that distance. See the next question.
4. If a rod has an ERN of say, 5.5, does that mean that I must use a 5 wt. line on it?
No. However, It does mean that if you were to use a “5 wt.” line on that rod, you would find that the line loaded the rod sufficiently to allow the average angler to easily and pleasantly cast the rod with 30 feet of that line extended past the rod tip, or to put another way, with 30 feet of that line aerialized. The ERN (In conjunction with the WL) is a tool for relating rod strength or stiffness to the weight of the line and/or the length of the line being cast.
On the other hand, one must remember that the term “5 wt.” rod is used to designate the line which that rod’s designer has subjectively recommended the angler use. That number tells nothing about the intrinsic power, strength, or stiffness of that rod. Consequently, a “5 wt.” rod might very well bear the marking ERN=6 or even 7. The two numbers (ERN and Wt.) describe different things about that rod and do not conflict with each other.
In my very first article, before the CCS was fully explained and in order to give the readers a conceptual feeling for the CCS, the material was presented with the “assumption” that ERN values and “rod weight” values would be the same if the rods were “correctly rated.” With the development of CCS data, that this was not so became clearly evident, and the utility of the ERN and AA values became obvious. From that point on, the CCS has essentially ignored “rod weight” as a useful indication of a rod’s intrinsic properties.
5. How can static measurements be used to determine the correct line weight for what amounts to a very dynamic action?
The static measurement of the value of the ERN represents a single point on the curve relating rod stiffness to deflection. Several previous investigators’ work have demonstrated that the stiffness of a rod is the determining factor in choosing a line to match that rod.
6. I thought rod action was determined by the material of construction? Aren't rod action and rod speed the same thing?
No. Although many use the terms interchangeably, this is the result of the lack of a defined vocabulary on their part.
In terms of fly rod design, the action of a rod is defined on the basis of where that rod first appreciably bends. This has absolutely nothing to do with the material from which the rod was fabricated. The CCS measures a rod’s action in units of Action Angle (AA) and thereby defines, in numerical terms, actions such as fast, moderately fast, moderate and slow.
Rod speed, on the other hand, is a term often used in regards to describing the recovery rate of a loaded rod. This is indeed a function of the material of construction. However, it is also a function of the weight distribution due to the rod’s design and the degree of loading. It is commonly measured in terms of the frequency of the rod. This is addressed in the CCS by the term CCF (Common Cents Frequency).
7. How can simple numbers ever accurately describe something so intricate and complicated as a fly rod?
A simple number, for example “5 wt.,” can’t, However, the more numbers one has describing the intrinsic properties of a fly rod the more accurately one can describe that rod. While 5 wt. is commonly used as a general description of a rod, the CCS uses the six terms, ERN / AA / WL / CCF / TP / and RP to more precisely and accurately describe that rod.
The following articles are presented here in PDF format.
Commonly Asked Questions